Myofascial Release

You may have seen people lying on big foam tubes at the gym, wondering what they're doing, if it's exercise, and why they look like they're in so much pain on something that looks so comfortable. Those tubes are foam rollers, and they're actually doing a type of stretch called Myofascial Release, MFR, or foam rolling.

What is Myofascia?

Fascia is a system of soft connective tissue that wraps around the body under the skin. It is a sort of net that surrounds muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, and other tissue, supporting and protecting them. Myofascia refers to areas of the fascia directly involved with muscles.

Why Release It?

Normally, this fascia is relaxed and can stretch and move. Fascia can, however, tighten up when muscles are overused, after long periods of inactivity, or after trauma or swelling. This can lead to tightness, constriction, pain, and reduced blood flow in certain areas of the body.

Myofascial release works to alleviate this tightness through stretching and applying pressure. By applying force on the tight spots, it elongates and overloads the fascia causing it to release, thereby relaxing and loosening the net of fascia.

What Should I Do?

There are a wide range of products that can help you with myofascial release, each with their own benefits. The most common tools for myofascial release are: hands and elbows, foam rollers, Lacrosse balls, tennis balls, or golf balls.

No matter what tool you use, the process is pretty much the same:

  1. Identify

    1. Find the restricted part of your body

  2. Target

    1. Place your tool of choice on the tight spot

  3. Pressure

    1. Add tension by slowly leaning on it to add body weight

  4. Roll

    1. Shift your body weight around, massaging the surrounding area

  5. Repeat

    1. Continue as needed to maintain flexibility and range of motion

While you'll feel nice and loose after performing myofascial release, the process itself can be painful. The fascia is tight and is painful to move on its own, so adding pressure and force manually can cause significant discomfort. Take it slow and start with very little pressure, and increase force as you grow accustomed to it. Experiment with different tools and spots on the body to find what feels good for you.